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Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Younger sells out online within 5 minutes

The quest for Pliny the Younger specialty craft beer was over in a flash Thursday morning, as 8,000 cases were sold online to California residents within five minutes.

With more than 110,000 customers on Russian River Brewing Co.’s website at the 11 a.m. start time vying for the coveted triple India pale ale, many people were left unhappily with no Pliny — only the hope that in February 2022 the pandemic allows a return to the annual 14-day run at the Santa Rosa and Windsor taprooms.

Natalie Cilurzo, brewery co-owner along with her brewmaster husband, Vinnie, told Russian River’s loyal beer fans via Instagram they were very sorry there was not enough Pliny the Younger this year for everyone who wanted it.

She confirmed the $115 cases, each containing four bottles of the elusive high alcohol craft among 12 bottles, were gone by 11:05 a.m. Only one case per customer was allowed.

“We are doing the best we can with the resources we have,” Cilurzo said, as the company only brewed a third of what if would typically produce during the annual two-week Younger event that draws up to 25,000 global customers who often wait hours at the two brewpubs to taste it. “We physically could not do any more than that.”

Still, the frustration flowed with ample social media blowback. Reid Casey of Fremont emailed The Press Democrat and said he was shut out despite trying to buy the beer on two computers.

“Being a longtime home brewer I always wanted to try Pliny the Younger and thought this time it was fair for everyone. Guess I was wrong,” Casey wrote.

Cilurzo said the main concern heading into the digital sale was for Russian River’s website not to crash. She realized that many fans were disappointed at not being able to buy the popular special release, including those who showed the purchase in their online shopping cart only to be timed out before their orders were processed.

The pandemic boxed in Russian River. She acknowledged that, saying it “was either this (online) or not make it all” in 2020, and reminded everyone that Russian River was “not an Amazon fulfillment center.”

Russian River will start overnight shipping Pliny the Younger to lucky customers like Nic Ruiz of Santa Rosa beginning Feb. 8. Despite the frenzy for many, Ruiz said the Pliny buying experience was better than one last summer that Monkish Brewing Co. in Los Angeles held for a special release, calling it “more volatile.”

Wow! Sold out in about 5 minutes and thankfully nothing crashed! Looking forward to seeing everyone in person again in 2022! Cheers and THANK YOU! 🍻🥰#plinytheyounger2021

Posted by Russian River Brewing Company on Thursday, January 28, 2021

Collin McDonnell, CEO of HenHouse Brewing Co., sympathized with the Cilurzos.

“It seems like Younger is just so hyped that no one is ever going to be happy with that release,” McDonnell tweeted. “I think RR did the right thing, they just can’t make everyone happy.”

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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